TORONTO — Serge Ibaka had barely played alongside Kyle Lowry when the Toronto Raptors opened the playoffs last season.
The big man was acquired at the trade deadline, and played the final 23 games of the regular season for Toronto. But Lowry was out with a hand injury and didn’t rejoin the team until four games before the playoffs tipped off.
The Raptors had envisioned Ibaka helping them past LeBron James and the Cavaliers, but with little time to jell, it just didn’t happen.
“It was more difficult than we thought especially when pressure hit,” coach Dwane Casey said. “When you don’t know the nuances or know each other well, it’s more difficult in those situations. We had to simplify some things last year just because of P.J. (Tucker) and Serge coming in … I probably didn’t do a good job of integrating them in quick enough.”
Toronto Raptors on Sportsnet NOW
Live stream 41 Toronto Raptors games, over 100 other marquee NBA matchups, plus select playoffs and NBA Finals games.
Ibaka, acquired for his defensive toughness and solid shooting, averaged 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in Toronto’s 10 playoff games, but the Raptors were swept in the second round by Cleveland.
This season is a “different story,” Casey said. Ibaka had the benefit of training camp and a full season with the Raptors, and on Saturday, he had a team-high 23 points and 12 rebounds in Toronto’s Game 1 victory over Washington.
“Last year, I didn’t really have time to work with the team, with the guys, but now we know each other,” Ibaka said. “Kyle, …read more